Dollywood Positions Big Bear Mountain to Drive Summer Visitation
The Memorial Day holiday weekend in the United States coincides with a new expedition through the Great Smoky Mountains this summer. Dollywood’s newest (and longest) roller coaster, Big Bear Mountain, allows guests to join a family-friendly expedition. Riders who meet the 39-inch height requirement climb aboard SUV-themed, 20-seat trains in search of the fictional Big Bear.
The new attraction—designed by Vekoma—officially opened on May 12 with the help of Dolly Parton singing a specially written song.
- Watch Dolly Parton dedicate the new Big Bear Mountain at Dollywood in song.
The attraction complements Wildwood Grove, opened in 2019 that includes several family rides, a family suspended coaster, a splash ground, and an indoor playground that is climate controlled for all seasons.
After buckling up, riders launch out of the station and race up a 66-foot summit before immediately launching again into a twisted journey along terrain-hugging bright orange-colored track. The 3,990-foot long ride and its forest green support columns harmoniously blend with and complement the topography. Surprises include a plunge under a purpose-built waterfall, a third launch, several helixes, and a dive into a tunnel as guests roam above on a bridge.
Traditionally, high-speed launch sections are included on big thrill rides. As a family coaster, Big Bear Mountain provided a bit of a challenge.
Jeroen Janssen, a project manager from Vekoma, tells the IAAPA News Hub it had been a while since Vekoma utilized launch technology with a lighter, more compact trains, like those found on Big Bear Mountain. Therefore, the new coaster’s launch system had to be scaled back, but still meet the demands of the terrain.
[Even] with all the different elevations, it fits perfectly in this space,” Janssen tells IAAPA News.
Dollywood used the expansion in Wildwood Grove to embed more storytelling elements. Guests approaching the ride will encounter bear tracks in the pavement. Inside the queue, named the Adventure Outpost Base Camp, equipment and research materials needed for their expedition are positioned along the line.
Once onboard, an integral part of the experience is on-ride audio—a first for a Dollywood coaster. This feature includes a crystal-clear score and narration by Ned Oakley as riders chase Big Bear together to the finish.
“We have grandparents riding this ride with their grandkids,” says Eugene Naughton, park president of Dollywood. “That’s my moment where I know we’ve hit the mark. Herschend stands for making fortifying family experiences. To see that in action is awesome.”